Although Catholics are accused of everything from fearing homosexuals to hating them, the ironic truth is that Catholics alone can be said to have true compassion for those attracted to people of the same sex.

To grasp this, one must understand the origin and the fruits of homosexuality.

While scientific studies have failed to prove homosexuality to be genetic or inborn, practical experience shows the true origin of the majority of cases of homosexuality: a dysfunctional relationship of a child with one or both of his parents.

For example, a male child with a distant or abusive father or a young boy with a mother who foolishly dresses her son in frilly girls clothes may well develop an attraction for other males because his sexual identity has been confused during his vulnerable, formative years.

Children learn the different roles of men and women by watching their parents, and when their relationship with their parents is dysfunctional, or when the parents' sexual identity is not modeled properly, the child's own sexual self-identity suffers.

This is hardly the basis of a happy, well-adjusted adulthood! Although homosexuals have dubbed themselves “gay,” there was never a more inapt misnomer. Statistics bear this out: Homosexuals have been found to demonstrate a disproportionately high rate of depression and suicide, not to mention a disproportionately high rate of abusing children.

Christ said, “By their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16). Surely we can infer a great deal about homosexuality both from its origins and from its fruits.

So, then, how does the Church deal compassionately with homosexuals? By being the only institution in the modern world to recognize homosexuality as a disorder and by helping homosexuals to deal with, and even overcome, this affliction.

After all, no progress can be made, no solution can be found, until one recognizes there is a problem to be solved. Supposed “friends” of homosexuality do incalculable damage to homosexuals by glorifying their unfortunate condition, persuading them they have no disorder and thus forever closing the door on any hope to discovering the key to their unhappiness.

The Catholic Church avoids this type of false charity. Refusing to hate the sinner but only the sin, the Church insists that true charity be extended toward those burdened with same-sex attraction; the Catechism of the Catholic Church urges that men and women with homosexual tendencies “be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” (No. 2357).

Further, the Church calls homosexuals and heterosexuals alike to the exercise of chastity, which entails reserving sexual union to marriage between a man and a woman who are open to new life. The Church offers real, concrete assistance to the homosexual in the sacraments of confession and holy Communion, through which flow the grace to persevere in this difficult virtue of chastity.

More recently, other means of assistance have blossomed as well, particularly in the group Courage, founded by Father John Harvey to help men and women with same-sex attraction live chaste lives. Some homosexuals who have participated in Courage have even progressed so far as to develop a heterosexual orientation and are now happily married.

Lastly, the Church offers real hope to the homosexual: In revealing the mental and physical anguish of Christ's passion and the unexpected joy of his resurrection, the Church provides the hope of eternal bliss to all those struggling with chastity or any other virtue in this vale of tears.

What a contrast to the typical media response to homosexuality! Today's “experts” proclaim from the rooftops the supposed glories of the homosexual lifestyle, thereby condemning homosexuals to an unnatural and unhappy way of life, all in the name of friendship.

It is as if those professing to assist people afflicted with alcoholism or eating disorders were to glorify these conditions as perfectly natural and good, and lobby for special laws protecting the rights of citizens to practice alcoholism or bulimia. Rather than helping unfortunate people out of a pit, these “friends” dig the hole even deeper.

Thus we see that these experts were never the friends of homosexuals; rather, they act as their prison guards, jealously watching to ensure that none escape their joyless and fruitless lifestyle.

From all this we can see that the Church, in urging us to oppose laws enacting homosexual “marriages” and same-sex civil unions, acts not from bigotry but from a motive of true compassion and love for men and women afflicted with homosexual tendencies.

Let us imitate her wisdom and charity by praying unceasingly for the spiritual and psychological healing of these, our unfortunate brothers and sisters in Christ.

Agnes M. Penny is the author of Your Labor of Love: A Spiritual Companion for Expectant Mothers, published by TAN Books.